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Baby Development

How To Teach Your Baby To Walk?

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You are excited when you see your baby take his first, tiny steps. You can go on those dreamy long walks with your little one, holding his tiny fingers. However, walking does not come overnight and happens through a series of events, which brings us to the question when does a baby start walking?

Walking is a life skill, and just like any other ability, it requires honing through exercises and activities initiated by parents. Here, MomJunction acquaints you with everything about walking in babies and the ways to nurture it.

When Do Babies Start Walking?

By 12 months, the baby takes his first steps with support, and in the next six months, that is by 18 months, he can walk without support (1). Babies attain walking skills by going through a series of events that happen at different stages of the baby’s life.

Stages Of Baby Walking:

An infant will go through the following levels of walking:

    • Stage one at six months: The precursor to walking is standing. Infants begin to put all their body weight on their feet and stand from six months (2). They cannot get into a standing position yet and need to be held by a parent when standing.
  • Stage two at nine months: The next achievement is pulling to stand, which an infant can do by nine months. It is also the period when the baby can stand alone by holding an object for support (3). It is a significant sign that the baby will soon walk.
  • Stage three at 11 months: Babies can now walk by holding an object for support (4). The infant can shuffle objects from one hand to another with each step. Such style of walking is referred to as cruising. Cruising becomes better by 12 months (5).
  • Stage four from 13-17 months: An intermediate stage where the baby topples, learns, and lifts himself up to walk again. The baby will experiment a lot during this phase and walk in a wobbly manner, hence the name toddler.
  • Stage five at 18 months: The infant finally lets go of any crutch or support, and walks for longer distances, mastering the walking skill.

Repeated practice and parental encouragement are the key to ensure the baby acquires walking skills smoothly.

How To Encourage A Baby To Walk?

Here are some simple tips to ensure that your baby’s walking skills stay right on track.

  1. Stimulate crawling and standing: Children start walking only after they learn to stand. However, they learn crawling way before that. Crawling is the first locomotory movement by the baby and lays the foundation for standing and walking. Encourage crawling since it strengthens the baby’s muscles. You could play games that exercise the lower back and leg muscles.
  1. Get him on the feet: Once the baby is six months old, spend a few minutes every day holding the baby on his legs. It will help the baby get accustomed to standing. He will learn to balance body mass on both the soles. The weight on the knees will strengthen the joints and stimulate the muscle growth in the legs.
  1. Place objects that aid standing: There are several support toys specifically designed to bear the baby’s body weight when he stands. Buy one for your baby and put it nearby when he is playing. The baby will grab it to pull himself to a standing position.
  1. Facilitate cruising: When the baby begins cruising, place support objects around for him to hold. Follow the baby as he cruises, but let him move by himself. The more an infant is cruising to walk, the better he is prepared to walk without support.
  2. Let him walk without help: When the baby finally goes off support do not fret and rush to grab him. Instead place your hands close as a safeguard while he ambles around slowly on his legs. The baby will learn to balance his body weight on his tiny feet. It is not just his legs at work, but also his brain and inner ear functions that help maintain balance.

Activities And Exercises To Help A Baby Walk

Exercise through activities is a good way to practice walking. Following are some simple activities that will help the baby to walk easily:

1. Reach for the toy

Age for playing: Six months and above

Activity: Make the baby stand on a soft surface while you’re holding him. Ask your partner to hold the baby’s favorite toy a little above eye level, so the baby has to lift his head. Make the baby jump on his feet as your partner prompts the little one to grab the toy. This activity exercises his muscles and joints.

Benefits: Strengthens joints and muscles to support body weight

2. Dance dance baby

Age for playing: Eight months and above

Activity: Play some music, preferably the one your baby likes, and assist the baby to a standing position on a soft surface such as a mattress. Hold the baby’s arms to move his torso for dancing. Since your hands are busy at the baby’s upper body, the legs have to bear the entire body weight alone. The movement of the upper body will change the center of gravity, and the baby will learn to maintain his balance.

Benefits: Helps baby learn balance, strengthens leg muscles

3. Fun with bubble wrap

Age of playing: 11 months and above

Activity: Put a large sheet of bubble wrap on the floor. Put the baby on the bubble wrap and let him hold an object for support. The baby may feel a weird sensation of the bubbles. As he cruises, the bubbles pop under his feet. If he seems confused, step on the sheet yourself and show the baby what happens. The popping and tickling may keep him busy for long!

Benefits: Cruising practice in preparation for full-fledged walking

4. A walk together

Age of playing: 12 months and above

Activity: Go to a garden or beach with your baby and partner. Your partner can hold a hand while you hold another, and walk along with the baby. If you sense he is trying to release his hands from your grip, then let go, but continue walking behind. It is in impromptu moments like these that you realize your baby has become an independent walker.

Benefits: Walking practice, family bonding

Activities help the baby walk, but it is important you take precautions when your baby walks.

Precautions When Baby Is Walking

Keep in mind the below points.

  1. Do not leave the baby unattended: Never leave the infant alone even if he is 18 months old and can walk by himself as he may tread on a dangerous path. If you are outdoors practicing his walking skills, be extra vigilant. Even at home a baby may accidentally topple over, therefore, always keep an eye on him.
  1. Start training on a soft surface: Begin the first practice on surfaces such as a rug or mattress. It reduces the strain on the baby’s delicate feet and joints while cushioning him in the case of a fall. As the baby gets better at supporting his body weight, you can move to harder surfaces.
  1. Do not use baby walkers: The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends against the use of baby walkers since they have no benefits for the baby (6). Instead, the academy recommends using a stationary walker without wheels, which the baby can use for support during cruising. A toy push car is a nice prop to help the baby stand and walk. Ensure that the car has a bar for the baby to hold and is weighted so it does not trip over due to the baby’s weight.
  1. Prefer barefoot indoors, but use shoes outdoors: When indoors, let the baby walk around barefoot as it gives a sense of the texture of the floor. The little one can have free movements, unbound by shoes. Though being barefoot is best, it does not mean shoes have no benefits. Experts recommend protecting the baby’s feet with shoes when you go outdoors (7). Baby shoes should be flexible, lightweight, and have a soft cushioned inner lining. On the outside, they must have an anti-skid sole to reduce slipping and falling. The feet of an infant grow at a rapid pace, which means he will outgrow his shoes within months. Check the fitting periodically to ensure there are no shoe bites or ill-fitting shoes.
  1. Do not thrust walking, let it come naturally: Walking is a developmental milestone that the baby attains when the time is right. No amount of practice and parental stimulation is going to make your baby go precocious and learn walking beA baby will show a natural inclination towards walking, showing signs of interest, and that’s when you can begin the training.

It is very important to baby proof the house. It is imperative that you remove all dangerous items strewn across the floor. Tuck away wires and cover pointy edges of furniture. A safer home brings more freedom for the baby to exercise his walking skills.

What If The Baby Does Not Walk?

There could be instances when the baby has a delayed achievement in walking. Here are some salient points about such situations:

  • Do not panic: Medical experts state that if a child goes beyond the age of 18 months to learn walking, then it does not necessarily mean a problem (8). The baby can easily catch up later.
  • Premature babies may walk later: Full term babies can take their first steps alone at the age of 12 months. However, preterm babies may start doing it at a later age of 15 months (9). Such babies can have an overall delayed normal growth. Regular checkup with a doctor can ensure the preemie achieves all milestones even if delayed.
  • Early neonatal infections can lead to delayed development: Infectious diseases in early life may lead to missing a developmental milestone (10). For instance, a lung disease called bronchopulmonary dysplasia can affect the baby’s posture subsequently impacting physical activities such as sitting and walking. This makes it mandatory for the pediatrician to check a baby after every bout of severe illness for a timely diagnosis of any developmental delay.
  • Some genetic disorders may delay walking: Genetic disorders such as autism, cerebral palsy, and down’s syndrome can prolong the emergence of physical skills such as walking (11) (12) (13). You can have your baby periodically screened for these problems by a medical practitioner.

Red Flags In Development

Here are the red flags about walking development that you must be on the lookout for:

  • By six months: Does not support partial weight on the legs and does not bounce on legs
  • By nine months: Does not stand with support of an object and also unable to pull to stand
  • By twelve months: Does not cruise (walk with support)
  • By eighteen months: Does not walk without the support of an object or a parent holding him

If your baby shows any of these signs, then stay calm and take him to a doctor. It could just be the baby taking time to learn to walk and needs extra time.

Some good ol’ practice through fun and games is all the baby needs to master his walking skills. Once the baby is all set to walk properly, he is going to keep you on your toes and you will have a lot of moments to capture!

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Baby Development

When Will Your Baby Develop The Pincer Grasp?

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It is thrilling to see your baby accomplish developmental milestones! While most parents look for common ones like ‘rolling over’ or ‘walking’, a multitude of them are cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Pincer grasp is one of them.

According to Claire Lerner, parenting resources director at Zero to Three, a national nonprofit organization promoting healthy development for infants and toddlers, “Getting the pincer grasp is one of the biggest keys to independence. Eventually, a child will use this grasp to do essential things like feed and dress herself and brush her teeth.” MomJunction tells you how babies develop pincer grasp, and the activities and toys you can use to develop this skill in them.

What Is Pincer Grasp?

A pincer grasp is a kind of finger-hold that your baby will start developing between 9 and 12 months of age. She will use the index finger and thumb together to squeeze an object before grasping and picking it up. It helps your little one understand how to pick up things. Once she learns to use pincer grasp or pincer grip, she can successfully feed herself with fingers and can use a spoon. Gradually, the skills refine, and the little one learns to pick things with both hands.

How Do Babies Develop Pincer Grasp?

Babies can grasp things right from the time of birth. It is a reflex action in the first few months, called palmar grasp. The baby learns to hold anything in the palm by wrapping her fingers and thumb around it from one side (1). The palmar grasp gradually develops into pincer grasp, which is a developmental milestone. Here is how she develops her grasping skills through the months:

One-Two Months

During the first two months, the little one keeps her hands clenched in a fist. She can curl her tiny fingers around yours as an instinct, to hold on to them tightly. This reflex slows down by the time she is three months old.

Three-Four Months

Now, the hand-eye coordination begins to develop, where she attempts to notice things and might even try to reach out for them. In the three-four month period, she can hold a toy or block. She may not grasp accurately but can bat. She may hold a rattle for a few seconds and can rake an object towards her.

Five-Six Months

By now, the palmar grasp becomes a voluntary skill. Five or six-month-old babies intentionally grip objects with this grasp. Your little angel attempts to pick an object, cover it with her hand, and squeeze into her fist. It includes the usage of the whole hand to grasp, pick, and hold an object. Once she masters in clutching larger objects in her palm, she will concentrate on gaining adeptness in her fingers in the coming months.

Seven-Nine Months

Between seven and nine months, your baby can use all the fingers and thumb to grasp a small toy. At nine months, she will be able to pass an object from one hand to the other. Eventually, the baby learns pincer grasp between nine and 12 months, in a direct route for picking things. It is a way of getting the index finger and thumb together as if to pinch.

Based on how well the baby can pick things using a pincer grasp, it is classified into two stages.

Inferior or crude pincer grasp: It is an initial stage where the baby uses the pads of the index finger and thumb to pick little things. It may last for 10 months from when the reflex begins.

Superior or neat pincer grasp: It is an advanced stage of the reflex, also called as fine pincer grasp, developed between 10 and 12 months. The baby can pick things using the tip of the index finger and thumb. Next, the baby will develop the lateral pincer grasp to hold an object between the side of the index finger’s mid-joint and the thumb.

Help your baby develop a more mature pincer grasp by trying the below-listed activities.

Pincer Grasp Activities To Help Your Babies

Encouraging the pincer grasp skill simply means allowing the little explorer to investigate a lot with fingers. Let her enjoy touching and manipulating toys or household objects.

Finger Foods: Allow your little one to try a few cheerios or soft finger foods such as cooked carrots or peas on her high chair. Place small food items like cheerios, raisins, etc., inside an ice cube tray compartments and challenge her to pick them using pincer grasp. Use tiny sock gloves which oblige her to use just the index finger and thumb. Keep away hard foods like raw carrots and nuts to avoid choking hazard.

Strengthen The Index Finger: Pointing or poking some object with the index finger is the initial stage of the pincer grasp.

  1. Encourage your little one to point out pictures in books or body parts.
  2. Let her push the play dough to make holes in it or push foods in her tray.
  3. Allow her to push buttons.
  4. Let her pull something out of your pocket and push something inside it.
  5. Let her enjoy pulling out tissues from a box.

Practice With Household Objects: The little one needs ample of practice.

  1. Simple kitchen items such as measuring cups and spoons, bowls, etc., are always a means of fun learning while playing.
  2. Allow the baby to drop objects into containers and help her learn to separate them. This aids muscle movements of the hand, wrist, and individual fingers.
  3. Stick a paper to the table or on the floor and allow your baby to scribble with crayons or a marker. Do not worry if she cannot hold it steadily. She is still in the process of developing her fine motor skills.

Toys To Encourage Babies In Using Pincer Grasp

  • Toys or objects such as dials to turn, switches to flip, can be good pincer grasp toys, which help babies in developing skills needed to get the pincer grasp.
  • Playing with toys, which need squeezing or pulling apart will be helpful. Balls of varying sizes and textures encourage the baby to push or squeeze. They help in the development of the infant’s hand muscles and the ability to co-ordinate them.
  • Allow the baby to play with toys like stacking rings and alphabet blocks of varying shapes, sizes, and textures. Let her pick them, throw, pick again, stack, or knock them down. She may even clap them together.

Be extra careful. Keep choking hazards out of your little angel’s reach. Present one or two items at a time for practice. Too many things may tempt her to use ‘less mature raking grasp’, as she attempts to pick all of them at once, using all the fingers.

What Happens After The Pincer Grasp Development?

Once the pincer grasp is developed, grasping becomes precise. Babies explore more by shaking, moving, throwing, and rotating. Mouth is no longer their primary sensory preceptor. They use both the hands to determine the size, hardness, texture, weight, and other properties.

Pincer grasp helps in later activities such as writing, coloring with crayons, cutting with scissors, and so on. The child’s preference for using left or right hand emerges slowly, although it can completely develop by two or three years.

When Should You Worry?

Every baby reaches milestones at his or her own pace. If your baby is not catching up or attempting for a pincer grasp, she is probably not ready for it yet. Give more time and do not pressurize the little one. While achieving milestones is important, understanding a baby’s developmental stages is equally important! Consider it as a matter of concern if your child is not using the pincer grasp by 12 months. Get an evaluation done to assess her fine motor skills and check if she needs an occupational therapy.

Note that premature babies reach milestones a bit later than their peers. Other possible causes of delayed or absent pincer grasp can be genetic disorders like cerebral palsy and autism. Check with the pediatrician to clarify your worries or doubts.

Hope our post helped you learn about pincer grasp. Tell us when your baby began trying the pincer grasp. Did you attempt any particular activity to encourage your baby or take any measures to ensure that your baby had enough chances to practice? Share your experiences in the comments section below to help other moms.

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Baby Development

Why Do Some Babies Crawl Backwards?

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Seeing your baby crawl for the first time is priceless, even though her attempt may not be perfect! Sometimes babies crawl backward before crawling forward (1), which is absolutely normal. With time, she will discover a way to propel herself forward by learning how to balance, and by maintaining a coordination of her legs and arms.

Crawling backwards does not right away suggest any disorder (such as autism). As along as your little one can move across the floor with each leg and arm, you do not have to worry. Indeed, it can take a little time to get any thing to get good, and crawling is not an exception. MomJunction tells you why ‘babies crawling backward’ is not a cause of worry.

Why Does A Baby Crawls Backwards?

Crawling is part of an infant’s gross motor development, which refers to big muscle movements such as the ability to sit, walk, and run. Though seemingly simple, these gross motor skills require nerves, muscles, and bones to work in tandem and well.

When your little one begins to crawl, usually between six and nine months (2), she may choose the easiest and the most efficient way such as the commando crawl, in which she shuffles around her tummy. If the little one finds it easy to crawl back, she may opt for it for many reasons.

    • If the baby feels stronger on arms than on legs, she will push herself back and crawl backward or scoot backward (3).
  • The upper bodies of babies are more developed than the lower ones, which is another reason for babies crawling backward.
  • Babies who push more on arms tend to push themselves back.

When her legs get stronger, the little one begins to crawl forward. Even if she skips to crawl forward or skips crawling altogether, it is completely normal. It does not mean that she has missed a milestone. Note that preterm babies may take more time than their peers to reach such milestones. Sometimes, infants who are above the normal weight may take more time to crawl, than other healthy ones.

How To Encourage My Baby To Crawl Forward?

Your angel will learn to crawl forward on her own. If you wish to stop your little one from crawling backwards, indulge in a few activities to encourage her.

  • Put her favorite toy a little out of reach in front of her and encourage to crawl towards it. She may struggle but do not jump out for rescue. Let her try. As she tries, the muscles required for crawling forward get strong.
  • Get yourself down on the floor and show her how to crawl forward. You could be funny as you do that.
  • Once your baby comes to a crawling position, gently propel her forward by placing your hand on her bottom.
  • Try moving her legs and arms to get the feeling of moving forward.
  • Entice your little one forward with her favorite food.
  • Use tummy time mats for your baby to practice crawling.
  • Your little one needs loads of praises and encouragement from you to learn something new. Shower them and see the difference.

However, remember not to force the baby. It should be fun for your baby to learn to walk and crawl. Also, do not compare your little one with other babies of her age. She may be slightly ahead or behind them. You should let her grow at her own pace. Bear in mind that backward crawling or whatever will be a matter of past after a few months as your little angel will be walking and running around then!

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